North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

Quil Ceda Village - Favorite Neighborhood Stores

Boring backyard busters for May


File Photo

Dogwoods have been spectacular this month with the eastern "Florida" species the most dominant in the area.

I am a little late on my BYB column this month due to the usual distractions of the busiest month of the year in the nursery business. That being said, here are a few ideas to jazz up the yard in May and even early June.

Dogwoods have been spectacular this month with the eastern "Florida" species the most dominant, but what many gardeners don't realize is that there are a couple of wonderful dogwoods that have been crossed with our Pacific Northwest dogwood and the Korean species and they are drop-dead gorgeous now. "Starlight" and "Venus" have creamy white flowers that are an incredible 4-5 inches across. You've got to see them to believe it.

A lot of visual interest in spring comes from foliage rather than flowers. There is nothing quite like the fresh new leaves on a plant, still unblemished from insects and diseases, as they emerge from their winter slumber. Barberries are a classic example of the diverse range of colors that foliage can present itself in, and one of the hottest new introductions is a stunner called "Limoncello." Forming a tidy, round mound, this new barberry has striking chartreuse foliage with an unusual red, almost dotted, pattern around the margin. The fall foliage is orange, yellow and red. It's a compact grower maturing at around 3 by and does best in full sun.

How about a foxglove with lipstick? There is a new hybrid foxglove called "Digiplexis Illumination" that has crazy colored flowers. Some might call Illumination cheap and trashy, but I think she has style. Unlike our native foxglove that only blooms for 5-6 weeks, Illumination will entertain you all summer in a riot of hot reds and corals and persimmons. While her glitz is tantalizing she can be short lived in the garden, often not surviving our winters so just treat her as a seasonal delight and enjoy the show.

Looking for something a bit bizarre? Euonymus japonicus "Rokujo" is a dwarf shrub that only grows 6-8 inches tall in 10 years and makes a great conversation piece in the garden. Place it in a container or trough or rockery to highlight its unusual character. The foliage is tiny and stacked in piles much like a stalagmite. I've had one in my patio for years and it never ceases to elicit comments such as "How interesting, I just love it" or "What the heck is that butt-ugly plant?" Either way, owning one of these fascinating creations is sure to turn heads in your garden.

Purple colored foliage is a dime a dozen when it comes to sunny locations, but for shade it is almost impossible to find a plant that will hold its dark purple leaves without fading away to a dull green. Not anymore. Say hello to Hydrangea aspera "Purple Passion." To quote from the Monrovia website: "This first-ever purple leaved Hydrangea for American Gardens was discovered in China and brought to us by Dan Hinkley. A unique shrub with greenish-purple new foliage, the leaves age to deep purple with rosy purple undersides. Wispy flowers nicely contrast with the dramatic, colorful foliage." "Purple Passion" grows about 6 feet by 6 feet and is a dynamite addition to the eastern or northern sides of our gardens or in dappled shade under large trees. My challenge now is to decide what I am going to remove to make room for this beauty.

Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and you can submit your questions online at


Reader Comments


Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2018